TODAY: South Ossetia explosion as Russian troops pull out; Georgia denies involvement. Chechnya names street after Putin; Duma may pass bill to help fight on corruption; US denies it is competing with Russia for affections of former Soviet states. Sochi residents forced to leave. An explosion in South Ossetia over the weekend killed seven Russian soldiers. Georgia denies responsibility. President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered a full investigation. Russian peacekeeping forces are in the process of dismantling checkpoints in Georgia, with five days to go before the deadline for troops in buffer zones around the breakaway regions. Compliance with the ceasefire agreement ‘could help get Russia’s longtime bid to join the World Trade Organization back on track’. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking in Kazakhstan, denied that the United States is in a ‘contest for affection’ with Russia over the allegiance of resource-rich former Communist states, saying, ‘We don’t see this as a zero-sum game’. Pro-Kremlin youth groups demonstrated against the US over the weekend, demanding that a US diplomat be tried over a car crash that happened a decade ago. A spokesperson for NASA says it is ‘unseemly’ that the administration could be forced to rely on Russia from 2010-2015 in order to transport astronauts to Star City. Inhabitants of Sochi are reportedly being forced out of their homes to make way for Olympic facilities.
A central avenue in the Chechen capital of Grozny has been named after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to mark his ‘contribution to the fight against terrorism’. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has spoken out against the pirates holding a ship hostage off the coast of Somalia, and said that Russia will work with the US and EU to coordinate efforts against them. Is Putin’s ‘unlikely’ alliance with Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko designed to help her become Ukraine’s next president? Russia’s warships are making their way to Venezuela for a military exercise.The Duma may pass a bill that would give the Prosecutor General’s Office the right to open criminal cases against investigators, judges, prosecutors and lawyers. A former deputy commander of the Railway Troops has been arrested on charges of corruption. Could Moscow’s ‘tactical victory’ with the Union of Right Forces party become a strategic defeat?PHOTO: Georgian soldiers remove barbed wire on the site of a former Russian installation not far from the village of Nabakhtevi, 120 kilometers from Tbilisi. (AFP/Vano Shlamov)